LA's New York Film Academy to Host Panel on Black Hollywood at Warner Bros.

The New York Film Academy in Los Angeles will be hosting a unique and provocative panel discussing the current state of Black Hollywood. Moderated by producer and NYFA filmmaking instructor Cheryl Bedford, the panel includes six additional African-American members of Hollywood who represent a multitude of professions in the industry. Over the course of the 90-minute event, panelists will address the past, present, and future of African Americans in Hollywood and assess how the state of the industry has both improved while de-mystifying problematic stereotypes about the global profitability of black film and how black characters and stories are represented on screen. 

The panel discussion will be held on Thursday, April 3 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Warner Bros. Theater 5, located at 3772 W. Olive Ave., Gate 4 in Burbank, CA. (The correct entrance to enter the Warner Bros. lot is Gate 4, the Hollywood Way gate. Gate 4 is located at the intersection at Olive Ave and Hollywood Way.) For more information, contact events coordinator Robert Cosnahan at 847-903-2307.

"We wanted to do the diversity panel of Black Hollywood to discuss openly what we discuss amongst ourselves. It is time to start open conversations and dialogue with Hollywood and to let them know that we collectively can debunk all the myths that exist,” says moderator Cheryl Bedford. “In a perfect world there is only one Hollywood, where everyone enjoys the same equal standing. We have to strive for perfection."

The panel consists of seven Hollywood veterans who remain highly active and are influential directors, producers, actors, as well as a publicist.

  • Moderator CHERYL BEDFORD is a venerable producer of such films as Traci Townsend and Dark Girls, for which she was nominated for a NAACP Image Award.
  • BEN WATKINS was the executive producer of the hit USA TV show Burn Notice and is in pre-production on the TV movie Hand of God.
  • WYLLISA BENNETT is an entertainment publicist, having served as a media consultant and publicist of record for the Pan African Film Festival for the past five years. She has worked with a plethora of personalities and household names, including award-winning actresses Victoria Rowell (“The Young and the Restless”) and Sheryl Lee Ralph (“Moesha, “Designing Women,  and “Instant Mom”), reality star NeNe Leakes (“The Real Housewives of Atlanta”) and two-time Emmy Award-winning celebrity hairstylist Kiyah Wright (“Love in the City”).
  • D. CHANNSIN BERRY is the director of acclaimed documentary Dark Girls and is currently working on two new documentaries that explore the mindset of modern African Americans.
  • CARYN WARD ROSS is an actress who recently starred on BET’s The Game and will appear in two feature films this year, The Affair and Patterns of Attraction
  • With over 200 music videos directed, JEFF BYRD has also directed such features as A Beautiful Soul and King’s Ransom and is currently in pre-production on a modern re-telling of Bad News Bears.
  • Director CRAIG ROSS, JR is a winner of the American Black Film Festival award for Best Film for Blue Hill Avenue and is in post-production on The Affair, the first film shot entirely on an iPhone by a Hollywood director. 

Since its inception in 1992, the New York Film Academy has grown into an international film and performing arts school with a focus on learning by doing, providing its students with hands-on instruction. Students can choose to enroll in one of the Academy’s MFA, MA, BFA, BA, and AFA degree programs and short term workshops in filmmaking, acting for film, photography, producing, 3D animation, cinematography, screenwriting, documentary filmmaking, game design, musical theatre, broadcast journalism, dance, music video, and digital editing. By holding this panel, NYFA hopes to initiate a discussion amongst students and the public about the role of African Americans in Hollywood and what can be done to increase equality in the entertainment industry. 


Nicholas Zurko
New York Film Academy
Tel: 212.674.4300